Kuka provides the automated plant for SmartFactory as a Service (Photo: Kuka)

MUNICH -- Three German companies this week unveiled a concept for a new approach to car production and industrial manufacturing as a whole.

Robot maker Kuka, consultants MHP and reinsurer Munich Re said their SmartFactory as a Service would offer automakers and other manufacturers a fully functioning production line with integrated risk management and an accompanying finance model.

It would provide a way for automakers to outsource a major capital-intensive part of their business, avoid investment costs and offload risk. It could also reduce time-to-market for some products by as much as 30 percent.

With SmartFactory as a Service, the three partners said their aim is to digitalize the whole value chain, realize a high-quality end-to-end data flow and connect areas of production that were previously unconnected.

At a press event here, Kuka CEO Till Reuter said the manufacturing approach would help automakers realize the flexibility they need in today’s business environment. “A plant’s ability to adapt is the key criterion in making manufacturing fit for the future,” he said.

Reuter also said the collaboration between Kuka, MHP and Munich Re shows that today’s challenges need to be addressed by bringing together complementary expertise from different companies. “You can only develop new markets and realize new potential through partnerships,” he said.

For the SmartFactory as a Service project, Kuka provides the robot-based automated plant, MHP contributes its digitalization expertise and Munich Re is developing financing and risk management models.

The partners showed a working prototype of their offering here, but said it would be several years before they expected to see a live implementation at a client. “Today, automakers aren’t quite ready,” said MHP consultant Markus Kicrchler. “What’s needed is a mind change and the breaking down of existing silos.”

A working version of SmartFactory as a Service is being shown to potential clients in Munich. The partners also discuss the various business aspects of the model in workshops, presentations and seminars.

Munich Re management board member Torsten Jeworrek added that the new production approach could start to gain some traction in three years.

-By Arjen Bongard